10 years might not be a long time in the history of the University of Glasgow but we are pretty excited to be celebrating our 10th birthday this month. As part of a series of 10th birthday blogs, we asked Katrina Gardner how things have changed since she arrived here back in 2006, when Glasgow was the first UK institution to appoint a Careers Adviser for Researchers.
What does your job involve?
I spend about equal amounts of time between delivering workshops and doing one to one consultations with researchers (which can be face to face but also includes lots of email advice and skype calls – I try to be flexible to meet the needs of very busy researchers!). Over the year, I’d expect to do about 50-60 workshops or employer events, attend several careers fairs and do about 500 consultations. As researchers, we understand that your career decisions typically involve lots of complex factors and you may already have significant previous experience. Therefore, I set aside slightly longer for these interviews than we might do for undergraduates. Appointments can cover CV checking, help with applications or job-searching, interview practice or career planning.
What do you enjoy most about your job (and why is working with researchers interesting)?
I love working with researchers across the many disciplines offered at Glasgow which makes for some fascinating discussions (although I can’t claim to fully understand everyone’s research!). It is challenging to support researchers in so many different areas as it means I have to try to keep up to date with a huge range of careers but I very much enjoy this challenge.
I also enjoy meeting people from all over the world although again this presents a challenge in advising people on job applications processes in different counties which can vary enormously!
What one piece of advice would you most like to offer to researchers on the topic of career planning?
Start early – this will give yourself time to explore the many options that will be open to you following a PhD or postdoc position!
If you are solely focused on pursuing an academic career then go for it . But, as with any competitive career I would advise exploring some back up options – even if the right academic post comes up, it might not happen straight away but there are lots of other opportunities that even in the short-term will look good on your CV.
Also, try to give yourself regular self-reflection time to take stock of how you are developing – this will boost your self-confidence and therefore increase your chances of success in the job market.
What have you seen change over the past 10 years?
There is a lot more support available to you today to help you achieve success in an academic career or elsewhere.
Academic careers were competitive 10 years ago but are even more so today with less funding and more people applying for posts. This has led to higher expectations from recruiters – meaning that the essential criteria that you have to match to get shortlisted is getting even longer. That’s why I strongly recommend you access 1 to 1 guidance and attend training courses to make yourself more employable through skills development or to help you better understand the labour market and how to maximize your chances of success. Training courses are also a good opportunity to network with other researchers – you may pick up really useful tidbits from discussions with other participants.
The good news is that researchers are very successful in furthering their career in a wide range of other career sectors. This includes careers that may involve what seems like quite a big career change, as well as those that seem like a more natural progression on from academic research and teaching. In recent years researchers have remained ‘recession-proof’ in their ability to move into professional level jobs. We can see this borne out in the yearly destinations surveys of PHD graduates in the UK.
What surprises you about the types of jobs that researchers go into?
Nothing, as there are so many different options open to you and you are all very employable!
Employer surveys over the last decade or so show that they have a high opinion of academic researchers. You will find it easier than people without a PhD to get into some very popular areas such as Policy Work, Medical Writing, Patent Law, Medical Physics, Clinical Science (to name just a few) where you may feel that it is a fairly natural progression on from academic research.
But equally if you want to try something completely new, there are plenty of opportunities in the UK graduate labour market where you might gain entry through a graduate scheme or even as an experienced hire.
Katrina is based in the Fraser Building. To book an appointment with her, visit the Careers Website.